Freddie’s Complete Guide to Buying the Perfect Christmas Tree

Want a lovely, real tree that looks suitably fabulous on Christmas Day and doesn’t cover your whole house in needles? Just follow Freddie’s eight easy tips…

How to pick a real Christmas tree that looks suitably fabulous on Christmas Day and doesn’t cover your whole house in needles? Just follow Freddie’s eight easy tips…

 

1. Don’t jump the gun – how to pick a real Christmas tree

A well looked-after Christmas tree should last for about six weeks, so if you are Christmas mad and like your gaff decked out by the beginning of November, know that your tree might not be looking totally fabulous on Christmas day.

 

2. Measure a tree-plus-bucket

When measuring your ceiling, remember to take into account the height of a stand or bucket. We don’t want your angel to get a stiff neck.

 

3. Find your shape

Decide what shape tree will look good this year. Most people prefer fuller, rounder trees and shops know this, so they’ll have a chunkier price tag. Freddie’s favourite is a Nordmann Fir (below) as they’re full of energy, reliable and easy on the eye. Just like Freddie himself.

 

nordmann firs

 

4. Snap a needle

Check the freshness of the tree by snapping a needle in half. If it snaps satisfyingly, it’s a fresh ‘un. If it’s more pliable and only breaks after a sad, sorrowful bend, the tree is old and won’t last as long or look as good in your home. Sap on the tree is also a sign of freshness.

 

5. Trim and water it asap

Once home, cut about an inch off the base of the trunk (essential so the tree can absorb water and live longer) and get it into water pronto. If you’re buying a tree with roots so you can replant it, be sure to keep topping up the water.

 

6. Use bleach

Flower food won’t work here, neither will sugar or vinegar. However, a drop or two of bleach in the Christmas tree water will keep the water clean and help the needles stay on.

 

7. Position it wisely

Like your regular Freddie’s Flowers, keep your tree out of direct sunlight and away from radiators and draughts.

 

8. Beware rogue climbers

Weigh down the tree if you have cats or small children, in case they mistake the tree for a mountaineering opportunity.

 

Finally, it’s always good to buy from a  local farm that grows the trees themselves, if you have one. But if you don’t, we recommend Pines and Needles and The Christmas Forest.

Love all things naturally lovely? Sign up for weekly flower deliveries, including some spectacularly festive ones, for £24 a pop here.

‘I’ve found a brilliant new use for Freddie’s Flowers boxes!’

In this month’s Diary Misti discovers a novel use for Freddie’s boxes, makes a frighteningly hot chilli and wisely avoids politics…

So what’s it really like being a Freddie’s Flowers customer? In this month’s Diary Misti discovers a novel use for Freddie’s boxes, makes a frighteningly hot chilli and wisely avoids politics…

The first bake sale of the school year took place before Halloween. I made chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with Swiss meringue ghosts on top, as per my daughter’s request. Sometimes I do as I’m told.

After baking and decorating them all, it dawned on me. I didn’t have a cupcake carrier. I scanned the kitchen looking for something with which to improvise. A baking tray? A casserole? My husband’s wine boxes? No.

But boxes, yes! It turns out a Freddie’s Flowers box – before you leave it out for collecting – is just perfect for transporting little cakes.

ghosties

I’m not going to lie; these cupcakes were a hit. Except with my own child. When it came time for her to choose what she wanted, not only did she refuse one of the ghost cakes she asked me to make, but she chose something prepackaged and covered in sparkly pink frosting.

I was so embarrassed. Though at age four I would have selected the same. Shiny things have forever held a special place in my heart. Perhaps that is why I love bonfire night so much…

***

Each year on the 5th of November, I make a chilli con carne. This year I made it with rioja as well as my homemade chipotle and ancho chile sauce. For this reason I called it El Toro de Fuego (‘The Fire Bull’!). We shared it with our neighbours before making our way to the heath with flasks full of whisky and pockets full of sweets. There, huddled like penguins, we watched inky skies explode with gold glitter.

fireworks

***

The following night proved just as sparkly as we celebrated my husband’s new book, Empire of Booze, with a launch party at Russell Norman’s Ape & Bird. The highlight, for me, was my father-in-law chatting with Alexei Sayle, not knowing who he was.

I’ll admit I was a bit peeved about the champagne running out before I arrived, but I suppose that only speaks to the success of the party. Of course I didn’t mind quite so much once someone handed me a generous tumbler of sherry.

***

The next day I arose to the ‘roar of the butterflies’ but also a delivery of red roses, carnations, and rosehips from Freddie’s. Which was nice as my husband was off to Lebanon for yet another luxury work trip. I know. Woe is the life of the wine writer.

red

My husband sent me a text when he arrived in Lebanon but I was worried about him travelling to Bekaa Valley. I kept sending him messages to please let me know when he was safely back in Beirut.

My mind was put at ease when I finally saw a video of him and a group of fellow journalists holding cocktails at a swanky bar.

 

***

Back in the States or what I like to call The Old Country, nobody could focus on anything but the election. Hell, even at a distance neither could I. Several weeks back I had the wisdom to pre-book a massage for the day of the result.

Let me just say I intend to schedule one for every major election here on out.

***

santa

 

On Saturday I took Helena to see Father Christmas in Leicester Square as she wanted early confirmation about her place on The Nice List. Afterwards we had lunch at the Portrait Restaurant then made our way to room 43 of the National Gallery. Helena’s favourite painting is in that room, Van Gogh’s Two Crabs. Which is rather what we were after walking about for five hours in the rain.

At home we curled up with hot chocolate and Peter Pan: “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

And that’s exactly where Henry found us when he returned home that night with hugs and boxes of baklava.

 


 

at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

 

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Flowers and the Greek myths – Five common flower names with legendary backstories

Ever wondered why ‘ordinary’ flowers have such strange and exotic names? Here are five legendary Greek tales behind common flowers…

Ever wondered why ‘ordinary’ flowers have such strange and exotic names? Well often it’s because they’re named after characters and stories in Greek mythology. Here are five legendary tales behind common flowers…

Aren’t flower names wonderful? True, they’re quite often impossible to spell (antirrhinum, anyone?) and, as Shakespeare pointed out, by any other name they would of course smell as sweet. But the exoticism of an ‘agapanthus’ or the musical sound of an ‘amaryllis’ is all part of the joy of having loads of flowers in your life.

So where do these strange and mysterious names come from? Well, a great many come from very old stories. Flowers are closely intertwined with our shared history and culture, going back across the centuries.

In the time of the Ancient Greeks, flowers were the very essence of myth and legend, playing key roles in all sorts of dramatic incidents. It was when gathering flowers in the springtime (including the rose, crocus, iris, violet, lily and larkspur) that the goddess Persephone was abducted by the god Hades and consigned to a life in the Underworld for a portion of every year (thus also consigning the rest of us, above ground, to winter).

 

hades-persephone-pignoni
Persephone is snatched by Hades – painting by Simone Pignoni, circa 1650

 

And many of our flower names today stem directly from particular legends. Iris, for example, means ‘eye of heaven’, and is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, who was said to carry messages between Earth and the gods.

Here are five more of the most evocative flower name origins – some you probably know, others may surprise you…

 

1. Narcissus

 John_William_Waterhouse_Echo_And_Narcissus
John William Waterhouse – Echo and Narcissus (1903)

 

Narcissus was a young hunter famed for his ravishing good looks – and nobody admired those looks quite as much he did himself. Indeed, he disdained all those around him, including the mountain nymph Echo, who fell deeply in love with him but was cruelly rejected.

But in the end the beautiful young man’s choosiness turns out to be his downfall, when he comes across a pool of water on Mount Helicon. Seeing his face reflected in the waters, Narcissus instantly falls in love with his own image and, becoming completely entranced, is unable to leave. He eventually wastes away to nothing, and in the spot where he dies a narcissus flower springs up.

The story has inspired many works of art and literature over the centuries, notably the Italian baroque master Caravaggio and the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali.

1024px-Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited
Caravaggio – Narcissus (1597-99)

 

The legend of Narcissus also had an influence on the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who took up the theme when he wrote about ‘narcissistic tendencies’.

So two thousand years later and the myth of Narcissus lives on, both in our word narcissism for excessive self-love, and of course through the narcissus genus of flower, from which our lovely, yellow-trumpeted and quite unpretentious modern daffodil springs.

 

2. Hyacinth

 The_Death_of_Hyacinthos
Jean Broc, The Death of Hyacinthos (1801)

 

Hyacinthus was another doomed, handsome youth. The Spartan was a great pal of the god Apollo, and they frequently enjoyed a game of discus (Ancient Greek version of frisbee) together.

Unfortunately during one of these games the discus whacks Hyacinthus on the head, killing him. Beset by grief, Apollo refuses to allow the passage of Hyacinthus to Hades, and instead forms a flower from the bloodstained earth. And thus appears the hyacinth – the petals of which, according to one version of the legend, are stained by Apollo’s tears.

A three-day Hyakinthia festival dedicated was held in Sparta once a year thereafter, at Apollo’s command. It’s worth noting that the hyacinth as we know it today is not the same as the Greek hyakinthos, which was more akin to the lily or larkspur.

 

3. Peony

 Asklepios_-_Epidauros

Paeon was a healer, working under the instruction of Asclepius, the god of medicine. He was pretty good at it too, healing the wounds of gods Hades and Ares, among others.

However, Ascelpius (above) become jealous of his student and threatened to kill him – at which point Zeus, the king of the gods, stepped in with an act of divine intervention, saving Paeon by transforming him into a peony flower.

The myth of Paeon may actually have some basis in reality, since the peony was used for a variety of medicinal and health purposes in ancient times, including for pregnant women.

(Read our complete guide to peonies here.)

 

4. Sunflower

clytie leighton
Sir Frederick Leighton – Clytie (1895)

 

Funnily enough, the Greek myth of the sunflower is anything but sunny. It tells the story of the nymph Clytie who is consumed love for the sun god Helios.

Unfortunately, Helios is more interested in her sister, Leucothoe. In a jealous rage, Clytie tells their father about her sister’s affair with the god, who responds by burying poor Leucothoe alive.

Strangely, this does little to help Clytie win Helios’ affections. He continues to spurn her and in her despair she strips naked and sits on a rock for nine days doing nothing but staring at the sun.

Without food or water she gradually wastes away and turns into the heliotrope (aka turnsole, aka sunflower), which according to long-standing but wrong belief, turns its head to follow the sun’s passage across the sky every day.

(Read our complete guide to sunflowers here.)

 

5) Hellebore

 the-youth-of-bacchus-1884.jpg!Large
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The Youth of Bacchus (Dionysius) (1884)

The hellebore – or Christmas rose – was used by the ancients for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treating paralysis, gout and even insanity. In one particular legend it was used to cure the madness of the daughters of the King of Argos.

Cursed by Dionysus, the god of wine, the poor women of Argos are rampaging naked through the streets, crying and screaming – much like on a Saturday night in many of our town centres.

Fortunately a renowned soothsayer and animal-talker called Melampus of Pylos turns up bearing a good supply of hellebores, which he uses to help cure the women of their malaise. At last, a happy ending for our heroes of Greek legend.

For his payment Malampus is allowed to take a third of the goods of the city of Argos (presumably filling in the correct catalogue numbers on a little form and taking it to the counter first).

 

funzen pun main
A classical arrangement from Freddie’s Flowers!

 

So there you have it. Whether it’s pretty heroes turning into floral versions of themselves, tragic stories of unrequited love, or using a bit of Christmas magic to stop madwomen from running rampage in Argos (we’ve all been there), for the Greeks flowers were, literally, legendary – and played a central role in how they viewed the world and understood the ordinary things of life.

We reckon that seeing the world through flowers is a pretty good philosophy. If you do too, why not sign up for our naturally lovely weekly deliveries at £20 a pop and transform your home into a floral Elysium (that’s the Greek version of heaven)…

How I learnt to stop worrying and love flowers

Like many men, Henry Jeffreys just couldn’t get the hang of buying flowers. But then he finally saw the light…

Like many men, Henry Jeffreys just couldn’t get the hang of buying flowers. He even thought florists might be involved in a shady conspiracy to fool us all. But then he finally saw the light…

By Henry Jeffreys

About 20 years ago, I was living in Barcelona trying unsuccessfully to learn Spanish. So unsuccessful was I that I lost my job working in bar called The Golden Rock Café (a straight rip off of the Hard Rock Café) because I could not understand a word anyone was saying to me.

The manager would say ‘Henry, tenedor! mesa cuatro!” and I would start mopping the floor or give him a cigarette rather than delivering the missing fork to table four. I was the Manuel character in an unfunny Spanish remake of Fawlty Towers.

I did, however, meet a young Danish lady who I attempted to woo. When we were out drinking Cava, I’d be approached by street vendors attempting to sell me red roses for la rubia (the blonde.). I’d shoo them away gracelessly and resume my clumsy attempts at romance.

The only time I bought her flowers was on Sant Jordi’s Day, the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day the tradition is for novios (lovers) to exchange gifts, flowers for her and books for him. It seems terribly old-fashioned but it’s actually very charming. My novia loved her flowers and I was pretty pleased with my copy of A Farewell to Arms because I’d run out of English language books and had been reduced to reading and rereading a book of Will Self short stories.

The thing is, I never learned the lesson. I don’t think I ever bought flowers for her again. Nor did I buy flowers for any subsequent girlfriend. I ignored the evidence of my own eyes and thought that women couldn’t possibly actually like flowers. It was all a conspiracy made up by the card companies or some shadowy conglomeration of florists.

On Valentine’s Day I would look pityingly at the men on the tube with their flowers or at the girls in the office with big bouquets pretending to like them. I knew better, I’d bought a good bottle of claret for my special lady and then wondered why she looked so cross.

It was only when I met my future wife, who after moving into my flat in Bethnal Green, spent Sundays at Columbia Road market. She’d fill this place with flowers and overnight it went from a crash pad to a home. Very slowly it dawned on me that there is no conspiracy: women really do like flowers.

Flower_man crop

 

After this epiphany, I began to brave flower shops, which I found totally overwhelming. “What sort of flowers do you want?” the florist would ask me.

“I have no idea, Pretty ones I suppose,” I’d reply. “Nothing too gaudy.”

“How much do you want to spend?”

Again I had no idea, how much is a lot? When you don’t get flowers, any amount seems baffling. The staff would look at me with pity, thinking, “he’s probably done something terrible and he’s trying to make up for it with flowers.” Honestly I hadn’t. I just wanted to be romantic and spontaneous and ended up all confused.

I’d return home sheepishly carrying a bunch more suitable for leaving on someone’s grave. Or worse, the kind of thing that might look good in the lobby of a German bank but hardly screamsI love you’.

But over time I gradually began to appreciate flowers. They don’t necessarily have to say anything. They just need to exist and make your home more beautiful.

And I learnt, very slowly, that not all florists are created equal. Some have taste (or at any rate, some have taste that chimes with my wife’s), and others don’t.

It’s not easy to find the right florist but now I don’t have to because we have a weekly delivery from Freddie’s Flowers. I’m not entirely sure, however, who is more excited about the delivery, me or my wife, because whisper it… I now love having flowers in the house.

 

funzen pun main

 

Henry Jeffreys writes about drink, books and popular culture in The Spectator, The Guardian, The Oldie, The Lady and many other publications.  He is the author of ‘Empire of Booze’  – a history of Britain told through alcoholic drinks. 

Want to transform your home with naturally lovely flowers? Sign up to try our amazing flower deliveries at £24 a pop.

Edible Flowers: a guide for the budding chef

Flowers are colourful, fragrant – but tasty? Here’s a guide to munching your way through edible flowers…

Flowers have been used for culinary purposes since ancient times. And their use in cooking is enjoying something of a revival today. Here’s our guide to munching your way through the flower garden…

When contemplating just what it is that makes flowers so naturally lovely, you might perhaps be inclined to say it’s their colours… or perhaps their delicate fragrance.

Tasty doesn’t necessarily spring straight to mind.

And yet throughout history, humans have chomped their way through a veritable floral smorgasbord. Using flowers for everything from from adding extra vibrancy to salads to spicing up soups, to producing delectable sweets and desserts…

 

Saffron and marigolds

 1024px-Afghan_Saffron

Afghan saffron – Image credit.

 

You’ll be familiar with the idea of using flowers such as jasmine, rose or hibiscus to make fragrant teas. You might even have sampled stuffed courgette flower, or enjoyed a glass or two of elderflower wine. But perhaps you haven’t quite considered tucking into your pot marigold.

In fact, flowers have served an important medicinal and culinary role over the centuries, with one of the earliest known references to edible flower petals occurring in 140BC, when they were apparently used as a garnish.

 The ancient Greeks are known to have used saffron, taken from the inside of the crocus flower, to spice up their medicinal soups, and over time the use of saffron to add flavour to dishes became popular throughout Europe.

However, saffron was (and still is) notoriously expensive. Enter the calendula, or marigold, which became known as ‘poor man’s saffron’,Whose orange petals offer a suitable – and much cheaper –  substitute for saffron. While both the flowers and leaves can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, seafoods and even desserts.

 

From medieval salads to the Boston Bea Balm Party

Boston_Tea_Party_Currier_colored

In the Middle Ages, the salad was quite a different state of affairs to today. With ingredients commonly including the primrose and sweet violet, as well as herbs such as mint and parsley.

Medieval monks enjoyed steaming flower petals to produce oils, which were then used to create flower waters. They would also use violet flowers to make sweet syrups.

Some edible flowers have even played a key role in our political history.

Take monarda didyma, or bee balm, which was traditionally used by native Americans for its medicinal properties. Following the events of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, English tea was in short supply. Most of it having been thrown into Boston harbour as part of a protest against taxes.

Bee balm was used in its place by the colonial settlers (which is probably why you still can’t get a decent cuppa in the States).

 

Victorian rose puddings

victorian dinner
Victorians tuck into their dinner of popular flowers

 

As well as being obsessed with the language of flowers, the Victorians loved to chomp on a good bloom.

Roses and violets were among their flowers of choice, with frosted rose petals and candied violets being used to create beautiful cakes and desserts. (Though apparently their recipes used butter rather than Flora – sorry).

But the Victorians weren’t alone in that. Roses are, of course, famous for their delicate scent, and rosewater is used in many cuisines across the world, including sweets like baklava and Turkish delight.

Rose hips can also be used for jams, jellies and syrups, and have a high vitamin C content.

 

Fancy yourself as a flower chef?

nasturtium salad
Nasturtium salad. Image credit.

 

Today, flowers are regaining popularity in the kitchen. With the pansy in particular making regular appearances on Masterchef. Its vibrant petals now adorn many a fine salad in Michelin-starred restaurants around the UK.

Many modern recipe books also now include well-known flowers among their list of ingredients, from baby daffodils, to heather flowers and even fuchsias.

Here are three more flowers you might not have thought of eating:

Nasturtiums – the nasturtium, coming from southern and central America, is fully edible. With its bright flowers not only offering a cheery accompaniment to your salad, but also adding a notable peppery taste. The flowers are also high in vitamin C and lutein, and the seeds can be used as a condiment.

Pinks – the dianthus, or carnation (also known as ‘pinks’). With its characteristic serrated-edged petals, became a particularly popular culinary tool among the French. Having a spicy, clove-like taste – although today it is perhaps appreciated more for its aesthetic than its edible qualities, and is more likely to been seen in a vase than on your dinner plate.

Chrysanthemums – the chrysanthemum is a particularly popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. Where the flowers are used for various purposes, including making sweet drinks and flavouring rice wine. While in China the leaves are steamed or boiled and eaten as greens –  offering an interesting alternative for your five a day.

Green_Tea_with_Chrysanthemum
Green Tea with Chrysanthemum. Image credit.

 

 

Important! Don’t necessarily try this at home…

It’s worth remembering that some plants and flowers are inedible or even poisonous. And that even edible flowers should be approached with a degree of caution, with some having rather less desirable effects if consumed in sufficient quantities. Including those containing cyanide precursors, and others acting as diuretics (including daylily and borage).

Any flowers that are intended for consumption should also be fresh and organically grown.

 

At Freddie’s Flowers, we do make delicious arrangements. Though we recommend that you mostly just sit and look at them, perhaps with a nice drop of rosé. Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 

 

Image credits: Flower salad, top;  Boston Tea Party cartoon; Grun – The End of Dinner (1913)

The Gallery – Dogs, Cabbages, and the Colours of Autumn

Time for an autumnal selection of our favourite recent photos sent in by Freddie’s Flower People (i.e. our splendid gang of customers)…

Nothing makes us happier than seeing our flowers looking lovely in your homes – that’s what they’re for, after all. Here’s a selection of some of our favourite recent photos sent in by Freddie’s Flower People (i.e. our splendid gang of customers)…

We reckon your arrangements are works of art, so they deserve their own gallery (like this and this). Please do share your pics with us by email or social media – see the bottom of the post for where – and perhaps you’ll feature in the next one!

Anyway, in this gallery are some of your gorgeous autumnal arrangements…

 

Fiery reds and golds and oranges

In September and October we’ve gone all out for autumnal colours, particularly with the lilies, Red Alstroemeria and Eucalyptus box, and a little before that, the one with Red Roses, Astrantia, Hypericum and Oak Quercus.

The result on our social media pages has been a veritable avalanche of reds and golds and green loveliness – including some splendid mix-and-match efforts. Here are just a few of our favourites.

From Jon Terry on Twitter:

Jon Terry on Twitter

And this, tweeted by Jackie Scheider

jackie schneider on twitter

 

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Tess Longley turned her red rose arrangement into a real showstopper…

tess longley facebook

…and Emily Gardner showed us how she decided to employ two vases and split her roses…

emily gardner 2

…from her oak and astrantia:

emily gardner 1

 

Cabbages and Roses and Pink Rossano Blooms…

But it’s not been all reds. There have been some delightfully delicate arrangements made from our Cabbages and Roses box, and also from the rather unusual Rossano Blooms, Double Lisianthus and Eucalyptus Populus one at the end of September.

Here’s the latter arranged by Biffy McNally, who shared the pic on Facebook:

pink rossano blooms by biffy on facebook

And Ceri Kennedy decided to ‘go little’ after she found hers were still going strong after two weeks:

ceri on facebook

 

Meanwhile, the cabbages and roses inspired some fine photography, including this tweet from Green Farmhouse B&B:

green farmhouse on twitter

and this from Chris Whiteman:

chris whiteman

 

 

And lastly, the dog days of Autumn…

picturesque pineapple on instagram

Well, how could we resist this Instagram arrangement above from @picturesquepineapple of sunflowers, cocosmia and miniature pinscher?

Or indeed, this magnificent tableau Rachel Pearson on Twitter

rachel pearson on twitter

 

Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People too? We want to see your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com

(Or if you’d like to join us, just sign up for lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop here!)

 

Flower Power! The best hippy music of the 1960s

Henry Jeffreys admits he would have made a rubbish hippy. And yet, flower power did produce some truly magical pop music…

Writer Henry Jeffreys admits he would have made a rubbish hippy: when he sees footage of Woodstock he worries about the toilet facilities. And yet, flower power did produce some truly magical pop music – which is your favourite hippy classic?…

By Henry Jeffreys

 

People often talk about how wonderful it would have been to be young in the 1960s. And I can see their point. Imagine seeing the Beatles before they were famous or a wrinkle-free Rolling Stones. And the clothes! I’d have made a good mod, I think, if I lost a little weight; staying up all night dancing to Motown followed by a visit to an old Jewish tailor in Hackney to get my new mohair suit fitted.

It would have been great until about 1966 when musicians started taking themselves seriously. This was the start of the hippy era. Suddenly it wasn’t just about having fun; it was about changing the world. You can see the exact crossover in the documentary Rock Revolution where Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits and Graham Nash from the Hollies have a bit of an argument. Roughly 35 minutes in Graham Nash says: “Pop musicians they could rule the world, man….What Donovan is trying to put over will stop wars dead… We can get up there and say Hitler was wrong and shout it to the world…we can stop world wars before they ever started!”

I love Peter Noone’s laconic response, “I disagree.”

Imagine thinking that this man had the power to stop wars:

 

One can see a trajectory from Nash’s deluded witterings to Bono today. If I’d been alive in the late 60s, I would have been totally uncool like Peter Noone. There would have been no free love for me. I’m not comfortable with being naked the whole time anyway. Especially not in England. When I watch footage of Woodstock, I worry about the toilet facilities.

And yet, and yet, despite my dislike of the hippy ethos, I have to admit that some of the music from this period is phenomenal. Joni Mitchell didn’t actually go to Woodstock. She did the Dick Cavett show instead. Better toilets I imagine. She wrote this song in tribute to Graham Nash, her lover at the time, who was there. Altogether now:  “We are stardust, we are golden.. . .”

 

Before music became important, though, things had already begun to change in England. Rather than just doing their own versions of American music, British acts, such as the Kinks, the Small Faces, and of course, the Beatles, mined folk and music hall to create a whimsical peculiarly English style of pop music.

One of my favourites from this era is Flowers in the Rain by The Move. It’s joyful stuff and literally about nothing more than watching flowers in the rain. This single was the first one played on totally groovy new station, Radio 1 (though there is some debate on the internet about whether it was actually Beefeaters by John Dankworth or whether that was being used as a jingle so didn’t count). Roy Wood from the Move later formed ELO with Jeff Lynne and achieved festive immortality with Wizzard’s I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day.

 

Over in California young people were expanding their minds and liberating their bodies. Graham Nash swapped the Hollies and rainy Manchester for sunshine, Laurel Canyon and Crosby, Stills and Nash, and sometimes Young. Here they are ‘sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind’ on Marrakesh Express.

 

It was further north than LA, however, where flower power really originated. Forget Scott Mackenzie’s dreary San Francisco, the real sound of hippy SF were Jefferson Airplane. One listen to this and you’re transported to brightly painted houses in Haight Ashbury and surrounded by lots of beautiful people wearing very little looking for somebody to love:

 

As the sixties progressed songs became longer and more complex, the Beach Boys went from Surfin’ USA to Good Vibrations.  This might have something to do with the drugs that musicians were taking. No song charts the experience of taking acid better than Kenny Rogers and The First Edition’s Just Dropped In, a song brought to a whole new generation when it featured in the Coen Brothers’ Big Lebowski:

 

But it wasn’t all good times. There was a powerful strain of paranoia in the late 60s. It might have been bad drugs or the fact that America was a deeply divided and unhappy place, plus ca change, one might say. Nobody captured this hippie paradox better than Love. This multi-racial band from LA mixed rock n’ roll with folk and psychedelia to create some of the most vivid music of the era. One of the greatest musical experiences of my life was catching, Arthur Lee, their lead singer on the comeback trail at a festival in Kent in the early 2000s. He died of leukemia in 2006.  This is Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark and Hilldale, I have literally no idea what it’s about but it rocks.

 

Finally the Small Faces, Tin Soldier. What I love about it is that it contains all of the best music from the era in one song: it starts psychedelic and whimsical with stuff about Little Tin Soldiers wanting to jump into fires, then for a moment the band invent heavy metal but discard it in favour of a full-blooded soul stomp with PP Arnold’s uplifting vocals. This song encapsulates what is so wonderful about the music of the late 60s. Forget the politics, forget the silly clothes, forget about Donovan stopping wars, it’s about a time when people lived to watch the flowers grow, and musically anything seemed possible…

 

Henry Jeffreys writes about drink, books and popular culture in The Spectator, The Guardian, The Oldie, The Lady and many other publications.  He is the author of ‘Empire of Booze’  – a history of Britain told through alcoholic drinks. 

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Misti’s Flower Diary: ‘Is it time to start lying about my age?’

Misti suddenly starts worrying about her age. Luckily, Freddie is on hand with some lilies and roses.

In the latest instalment of her Flower Diary, Misti suddenly starts worrying about her age. Luckily, Freddie is on hand with some lilies and roses…

It’s official. I’m now as close to 50 as I am to 20. Which is to say, it’s time to start lying about my age. Lying up, that is. Call me vain but I’d rather have people think I look great for 40 as opposed to a bit past it at 35.

Well I say that but the truth is I don’t actually mind getting older. Especially when the occasion coincides with an arrangement of white lilies from Freddie like it did this year. It was almost as if he knew Casa Blancas are my favourite.

lilies

 

***

Show of hands–Who can explain inset days to me? Before my daughter started reception on the 15th of September her school already had two such days. Then on the 26th they had another.

I have been told that inset days are teacher training days. Don’t get me wrong. Teacher training is important, but so too is actually having the children in school. N’est-ce pas?

Many reception students have found the transition from nursery rather difficult and the school has emphasized the importance of routine in helping them adjust. I agree which is why I’m baffled by how frequently their routine is disrupted by freaking inset days.

CUT TO: 26 SEPTEMBER (THIRD INSET DAY OF THE YEAR)

Being at a loose end, I took Helena to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at Tate Modern. We went with a friend of mine and her baby. I am embarrassed to admit that the four month-old was better behaved than my four year-old.

tate modern

Helena could not hide her boredom which she punctuated with loud sighing. She also pretended to be Mowgli from The Jungle Book and sing The Bare Necessities at top volume. Whenever we’d step off an escalator she would immediately try to step on another headed in the opposite direction. You know those string barriers meant to prevent museum-goers from standing too close to the art? She tripped over one.

To cap it all off, she vanished as we were leaving the upstairs cafe. She was only a second or two ahead of us then suddenly she wasn’t anywhere. My heart nearly stopped. BOO! She jumped out and told us she was playing hide and go seek.

***

After leaving the museum, my daughter and I made amends and shared a long hug at the edge of the Thames in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

chegworth apples

 

On the way home we stopped off at Borough Market for Chegworth apples. They were so good we’d nearly eaten them all by the time we reached home. That weekend I had to restock. I’m embarrassed to say how many jars of chutney I’ve made and how many crumbles I’ve baked. God, I love apple season.

chutneys

 

***

Recently, Freddie’s have delivered several arrangements that include roses, both red and white.

roses

While roses are beautiful and have a lovely scent, it’s taken me years to realise exactly why I love them like I do. It’s because of Bailey Jane, my childhood dog.

There is a picture my mother took of her when I was young. In it, she is seated on the floral cushions atop our wicker lawn furniture. Next to her is an arrangement of pink and red roses.

bailey

This image is seared into my memory and because of it all things rosy or Maltese related will forever fill me with a happy sense of nostalgia. Which has me thinking… Perhaps it’s time for our family to get a dog of our own.

 


 

at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

 

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‘I now look forward to Wednesdays!’ – and 9 more reasons to love weekly flower deliveries

Blogger Rebecca Sterling has become a bit of a fan of the idea of having weekly flower deliveries all for herself…

Rebecca Sterling of the lovely Roses and Rolltops blog has become a bit of a fan of the Freddie’s Flowers idea of having weekly flower deliveries all for herself.

In fact, she’s bursting to tell everyone about all the different reasons why she loves them so much, so we thought we’d better let her. Do any of these chime with you?…

piSXRqpJ

By Rebecca Sterling

 

I’ve always been a big lover of having fresh flowers in the house. They make it pretty, brighten your mood, are an easy way to update your decor and bring some of the outside and seasons in.

Normally I’d get my blooms via a cheap bunch from the supermarket, homegrown pretties we’ve cut from our garden or allotment or occasionally a trip to Columbia Road Flower Market. However, recently I’ve discovered a new gem of a source to get my floral fix: Freddie’s weekly flower deliveries, direct to my door!

I’d love to share a few reasons why I’m now a convert (and addicted) to my Wednesday boxes…

roses

1. You get out of your flower rut

Do you get stuck in a flower rut? Normally I’d just stick to the same old flowers that you can buy en masse and cheaply. Sunflowers, peonies when in season or roses from the supermarket. I’d buy just one variety and it didn’t feel special. Even if you go to a market, which are few and far between, I’d still just buy one bunch of the same type of flowers. In a box of Freddie’s Flowers though you’ll find about three or four types of flowers each week, often completely unexpected ones, and all hand-picked to coordinate together.

reds

2. You get flowers you can’t find anywhere else

This week’s selection had astrantia (which I had in my wedding bouquet). You definitely won’t find that in your local Waitrose. One week pretty larkspur, another Teddybear sunflowers with fluffy frilly heads, another Ornithogalum Saundersaie – dome shaped almost allium looking heads that opened into lots of white small flowers. It’s an education as well as feeling special and unique that you wouldn’t be able to source easily elsewhere.

sunflowers rebecca

 

3. It reflects the changing seasons

The flowers are seasonal so will be picked according to what’s available. No two weeks are ever the same which I love so you’ll never get bored. It also means that it brings a different feel into your house with the changing colour palette.

 

box surprise

4. You get brilliant arrangement tips

Normally I’d just shove a bunch of flowers into a jug and they’d look alright but a bit of a mess. However, every box of Freddie’s Flowers comes with arrangement tips and by following them I feel like a proper florist. It’s taught me about spreading out the different heights and splitting up different flowers within the display which creates a vase that looks professional and expensive. The arrangement really does make a difference.

 

5. You can have lots of arrangements around the house

If you don’t feel like having one big bunch of flowers, you’ve got the option to split them and create smaller displays to make them go further and spread around the house.

FullSizeRender 2

 

6. They usually last and last…

….meaning they’re great quality. By delivering them without being in water, you’d think that they wouldn’t last for all that long. But the minute you trim them, pop them into water with the flower food given, they perk straight up and then still look fabulous for ages – sometimes for over two weeks.. By receiving the next bunch whilst your first still looks pretty, you can mix and match them together or just have a whole house full of flowers!

 

7. The packaging makes me smile

…and it’s all so beautifully wrapped.

instructions

 

8. I reckon it’s great value

You can easily put a pause on deliveries if you’re away or want a break. You can also earn free bunches by sharing the love and recommending to friends.

 

9. It’s a great story

It’s such an inspired fun idea and I love supporting small new businesses with a story behind them. Freddie’s surname is Garland believe it or not and his parents are florists. He used to deliver for Abel & Cole but then decided he could do a similar thing for flowers so he and his brother got up at 3am to visit the Covent Garden Flower Market and started putting boxes together. He loves flowers, clearly, and now we all get to enjoy his creations every week! [This is indeed true – read Freddie’s story here…]

small arrangement

 

10. I look forward to Wednesdays!

I now look forward to Wednesdays, our local delivery day, because it’s my ‘Freddie’s Day’! I mean, there’s no better post than fresh flowers. And it’s so fun not knowing what you’re going to get. Sometimes you’ll get an extra little surprise in the box – like these dipped oak leaves this week (above). Lovely – and roll on next Wednesday!

 

toes

 

The original version of this post appeared on Rebecca’s Roses and Rolltops blog here – and it was so nice about us that we just had to ask her if we could put it here as well.

Rebecca also wrote a piece for us giving 6 tips for using flowers in the home.

 

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Beyond the Sunflowers: Van Gogh’s Other Great Flower Paintings

His sunflowers are the most famous floral pictures in art. But Vincent van Gogh painted many, many other flowers. Here’s a guide to the greatest…

His sunflowers are the most famous floral pictures in art. But Vincent van Gogh painted many, many other flowers – more than enough to prove his genius. Here’s a guide to the greatest…

by Nigel Andrew

Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings are among the most famous and instantly recognisable in western art – and among the most expensive. When Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers sold at auction in 1987, it fetched just short of US $40 million, more than tripling the record price for any work of art.

But van Gogh’s flower painting was by no means all about sunflowers – and indeed, it was his late painting of Irises that broke the auction record again in the same year as the Fifteen Sunflowers, selling for US $53.9 million.

fourteen sunflowers
Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (1888) one of the series of instantly-recognisable sunflower paintings. This one is at the National Gallery, London.

 

Van Gogh had been a flower painter throughout his career – partly because he couldn’t afford to pay models. As he wrote to his brother Theo, ‘I have lacked money for paying models, else I had given myself to figure painting, but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue cornflowers and myositis. White and pink roses, yellow chrysanthemums…’

He could hardly have been better employed: it is hard to imagine that he would have got very far as a figure painter, but his studies of flowers liberated him to explore the world of colours from which he would create his greatest work.

 

Brighter, freer and looser

Self-Portrait9_Van_Gogh
Self-portrait – Paris, Summer 1887 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

 

First Vincent had to free himself from the muddy palette that had characterised his earliest works, such as the famous Potato Eaters. When he moved to Paris in the mid-1880s, Theo urged him to paint in brighter, stronger colours, and flower painting enabled him to do this.

Vincent took the enterprise seriously, studying Dutch and Flemish flower painters of the golden age, and initially adopting their habit of depicting flowers against a dark background. In early van Gogh flower paintings, such as Glass with Roses (below) and Vase with Carnations, all the colour is in the flowers, while the background is conventionally gloomy.

Glass-with-Roses
Glass with Roses, 1886 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

 

However, there are some bright and exuberant arrangements among these early efforts, such as the Vase with Gladioli and Lilac, and van Gogh’s handling of paint was becoming freer and looser. Vincent was about to break free and find himself as an artist.

Vase-with-Gladioli-and-Lilac
Vase with Gladioli and Lilac, 1886 (Private Collection)

 

The Blue Vase period

The turning point came in 1887, by which time Vincent was totally immersed in flower painting, getting used to ‘colours other than grey [as he wrote to his sister] – pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, glorious red’.

He was also exploring colour theory and the rich possibilities of setting one colour against another – and, of course, he was coming into contact with Impressionism, Pointillism and Divisionism, with Japanese woodcuts and all the ferment of artistic ideas that were being aired in Paris at the time. Meanwhile, his friends encouraged Vincent by buying him bouquets to paint, and he also found flower paintings a useful way to pay restaurant bills.

Vase-with-Lilacs,-Daisies-and-Anemones
Vase with Lilacs, Daisies and Anemones, 1887 (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva)

 

A high point of his work at this time was a series of paintings of flowers in a blue vase, set against variously coloured backgrounds. Pictures such as Vase with Lilacs, Daisies and Anemones (above), Flowers in a Blue Vase and Vase with Daisies and Anemones show how far van Gogh’s immersion in flower painting had taken his art.

Vase-with-Daisies-and-Anemones
Vase with Daisies and Anemones, 1887 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)

 

These Blue Vase paintings are bursting with life and energy, with vibrant colour and swift, exploratory brushwork. In them we see the greatness of the mature artist emerging.

As for the flowers, Vincent painted everything from Asters (Vase with Autumn Asters) to Zinnias (Bowl with Zinnias and Other Flowers), by way of Carnations, Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemums and Wild Flowers in a Vase), Gladioli, Peonies (Bowl with Peonies and Roses) – and, oh yes, Sunflowers.

chrysanthemums_and_wild_flowers_in_a_vase
Chrysanthemums and Wild Flowers in a Vase, 1887 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

 

Bowl-with-Peonies-and-Roses
Bowl with Peonies and Roses, 1886 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)

 

Maturity and madness

The famous Sunflower paintings were among the products of the great, er, flowering of van Gogh’s art that followed his arrival in Provence in 1888, where the bright, sun-baked landscapes awakened him to the full expressive possibilities of colour and paint.

van-gogh-painting-sunflowers-1888
‘Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers’ by Paul Gaughin, 1888 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

 

It was a period of intense creative endeavour and mental ferment that came to a traumatic crisis with the famous incident involving Gauguin and the severed ear. Vincent ended up in an asylum in Saint-Remy – and, while there, he again began painting flowers. It was in the asylum gardens there that he painted the famous Irises, a picture that so impressed his brother Theo that he entered it in the Salon des Independants of 1889.

Irises-Vincent_van_Gogh
Irises, 1889 (J. Paul Getty Museum, LA)

 

Irises and roses – the last great paintings

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise) Irises, 1890 Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958 (58.187) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/436528
Irises, 1890 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Towards the end of his stay in the asylum, van Gogh was feeling calm and confident that his mental crisis was behind him. His final flower paintings are suffused with this new feeling of serenity, showing flowers in full bloom, freely arranged and zestfully rendered.

irises in vase against yellow
Vase with Irises Against a Yellow Background, 1890 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

 

Vincent painted violet Irises against a yellow background and against a pink background (1890, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and several delightful studies of roses (Still Life: Pink Roses, also Roses and Vase with Pink Roses) as well as a lovely rendering of almond blossom against a blue sky. These paintings of 1890 are among his most beautiful late works, though inevitably they tend to get overshadowed by those blazing Sunflowers.

Roses_-_Vincent_van_Gogh
Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses, 1890 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

 

Sadly, just a few months after the hopeful period in which he painted these last great flower paintings, Vincent van Gogh had died by his own hand. He died an obscure painter who had scarcely sold a picture, but in the years that followed he achieved a towering reputation as a giant of modern art.

I’d like to think that, if nothing of his work had survived but his flower paintings, he would still be regarded as one of the greats.

Nigel Andrew is a writer and host of the Nigeness culture blog

 

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The (often terrible) Poetry of Red, Red Roses

Roses are red, violets are blue – here’s a poetic guide to the perennial flowering plant of the genus Rosa for you….

Roses are red, violets are blue – here’s a poetic guide to the perennial flowering plant of the genus Rosa for you….

Just why is that the red rose has become the floral symbol for erotic love?

After all, botanically speaking, a ‘rose’ is just a woody perennial plant of the genus Rosa, in the family Rosacea, which has four main subgenera and hundreds of species with flower petals that come in all colours – the red ones merely being those with a particular combination of anthocyanin pigments in the petals.

But that doesn’t really capture the romantic bit, does it?

rose tattoo

Why, for example, is a single red rose so often to be found held between the teeth of a sexy Argentinian tango dancer, or tattooed on the shoulder of a glamorous, doomed youth? Or indeed, clutched in the sweaty palm of a teenage boy on his first Valentine’s date?

Above all, why do so many poets feel the need to constantly compare the object of their affections to red, red roses?

 

Blame Rabbie Burns

At one level, the answer is simple enough. Roses – and red ones in particular – have always been loaded with symbolism: the heady scent, that vivid colour hinting at hot blood and blushing cheeks…

In Roman Catholicism the rose actually became identified with the Virgin Mary (hence the ‘rosary’ form of prayer) but before that the Romans associated the flower with Venus, the Goddess of Love – and roses also held erotic significance in Sufi Islamic culture.

The great poem that kicked off today’s rose obsessions though, is ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’.

It was written down by Robert Burns in 1794 as part of his project of preserving traditional Scots folk songs, and became the Victorian equivalent of a smash hit single.

 O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

 

It’s a simple lyric, but with all that stuff about seas going dry and rocks melting in the sun even Burns himself worried that people might find it ‘ludicrous and absurd’ rather than ‘simple and wild’. But it packs quite an emotional punch if you’re in the mood (in fact, Bob Dylan once said that ‘Red, Red Rose’ had influenced him more than any other song).

However, while we can let Rabbie Burns off the hook for his bit of overblown romanticism, it’s harder to forgive some of the other red rose ‘poetry’…

 

Roses are red, violets are blue

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet, And so are you.

This incredibly popular ditty is familiar from a million Valentine’s Day cards, but actually has origins in some lines from the 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queene by Sir Edmund Spenser:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

It’s a poem that just cries out for satire, and all schoolchildren know much better versions, such as:

Roses are red, violets are blue.
Onions stink. And so do you.

In the age of the internet, ‘Roses are red’ pastiches have been taken to whole new levels. A long-running ‘meme’ involves adding the first line to any news headline or tweet, often with very funny results. For example:

meme1

and

meme3

and also:

meme5

 

Meat Loaf’s Wolf with the Red Roses

All of these poetic abominations pale into insignificance, however, when compared with the Worst Poem Involving Red Roses of All Time. We refer, of course, to the spoken word introduction to Meat Loaf’s song You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) from his multi-million selling album Bat Out of Hell

 

 

Oh dear, oh dear. The truth is, most of the time the best way to appreciate red roses is just to look at them, breathe in their scent, and not say anything.

We like them singly, but even more in glorious, room-filling, life-affirming and yes, romantic arrangements. Now that’s poetry…

 

freddies red rose arrangement
Our October 2016 arrangement of Red roses ‘Freedom’, astrantia ‘Roma’, hypericum ‘Coco Casino’ and eucalyptus ‘Cinerea’.

 

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Photo top by Angelynn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

‘I’ll paint flowers big’ – Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to surprise people into looking properly at flowers, and the blockbuster exhibition at Tate Modern shows how she did it….

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to surprise people into looking properly at flowers, and the blockbuster exhibition at Tate Modern shows how she did it. Guest writer Terry Stiastny goes along to stare…

 

Georgia O’Keeffe believed that in the modern world, too few people had the time to look at flowers. She was living in New York in the 1920s, where speed and novelty were everything, where skyscrapers were shooting up around her.

Fantin-Latour roses-1871
Henri Fantin-Latour – ‘Roses’ (1871)

 

In 1924, she saw a small flower in a still-life by the nineteenth-century French artist, Henri Fantin-Latour. Small and delicate, O’Keeffe thought, wasn’t going to work in her busy times. She could go big or go home. So she went big. ‘Big like the huge buildings going up,’ she wrote.

Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait; Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 - 1946); United States; 1918; Palladium print; 24.8 x 20.3 cm (9 3/4 x 8 in.); 91.XM.63.13
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait; Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 – 1946); United States; 1918; Palladium print

 

In a letter, the artist wrote, ‘So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers…’

At Tate Modern, you can see some of the startling results: a single dark purple petunia that makes a striking contrast with the green glass bottle that holds it; two huge oriental poppies with their dark centres and the vibrant oranges, pinks and reds of their petals; her favourite calla lilies, one in a tall glass, another against dark green foliage and a red background.

louisiana 014
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Oriental Poppies’ (1927); Oil paint on canvas; 762 x 1016 mm; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London

 

O’Keeffe was influenced by photography — she was married to a photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams was a friend — and she used some of their techniques to help us look in detail at her flowers. She cropped the blooms close, she blew them up to many times their natural size. As time went on, she made her flowers less abstract and more realistic, in part because she kept having to insist to critics that no, they really weren’t supposed to look rude.

Obj. No. 85.1534 Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) White Iris, 1930 Oil on canvas 40”H x 30”W 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm Image must be credited with the following collection and photo credit lines: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Gottwald. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘White Iris’ (1930); Oil on canvas; 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Gottwald. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Her painting of the Jimson Weed (below), with its cool white petals and curving green leaves, evoked, she said, ‘the coolness and sweetness of the evening.’ It also became one of her greatest successes — at its time, it was the most expensive painting by a woman sold at auction.

2014.35 Georgia O'Keeffe Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932 Oil on canvas 48 × 40 in. (121.9 × 101.6 cm) Framed: 53 in. × 44 3/4 in. × 2 1/2 in.
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1’ (1932); Oil paint on canvas; 48 x 40 inches; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA. Photography by Edward C. Robison III © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

 

Over fourteen years, O’Keeffe produced over two hundred flower paintings. Catch some of them — not to mention her landscapes — at Tate Modern while you can, because they’re rarely seen in this country.

Black Mesa Landscape
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II’ (1930); Oil on canvas mounted on board; Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation. © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London.

 

Take some time, now the seasons are turning, to look at O’Keeffe’s maple leaves in red and green and gold, painted in upstate New York, her russet apples.

And why not take a leaf out of O’Keeffe’s book in other ways? We could all take a bit more time, perhaps, to really see flowers, no matter how frantic the modern world makes us feel. We might notice something new.

 

The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition runs until 30 October 2016. View details at the Tate Modern site here.

Terry Stiastny is a former BBC journalist. Her debut novel, Acts of Omission, won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year award 2015.

Love flowers? So do we! Make your home naturally lovely all year round by signing up for a delivery box for just £24 a pop.